EPA allows thousands of fossil fuel companies to withhold data on greenhouse gasses

EPA allows thousands of fossil fuel companies to withhold data on greenhouse gasses
As his first move as administrator of the EPA, Scott Pruitt has ended an Obama-era request for oil and gas companies to provide the agency with information on greenhouse gas emissions.

Last November, the Environmental Protection Agency announced it would request and gather information from 15,000 oil and gas companies under the Clean Air Act to “assist the Administrator of EPA in developing emissions standards for oil and gas facilities.

On Thursday, the EPA announced that those oil and gas companies will no longer be required to submit information about their greenhouse gas emissions to the agency. 

In a press release, Pruitt said that he would assess the need for gathering such information, but said that the withdrawal from the Information Collection Request (IRC) would be effective immediately.

By taking this step, EPA is signaling that we take these concerns seriously and are committed to strengthening our partnership with the states,” Pruitt said. “Today’s action will reduce burdens on businesses while we take a closer look at the need for additional information from this industry.” 

The press release notes that the withdrawal came after the agency received a letter on Wednesday from nine state attorneys general and two governors of states with fossil fuel interests. The letter opposes the IRC requirements for companies to provide “voluminous information,” for what they call an “empty regulatory burden.

The burden of the request is disproportionate to its benefit,” the letter reads, citing an estimate from the EPA that put the cost of completing and responding to the survey at $1,100 to $5,800 for each company.

On Thursday, Lee Fuller, the executive vice president of the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA), applauded the announcement, saying it will bring “meaningful relief to independent producers across the nation and demonstrates that creating American jobs and developing U.S. energy is a high priority for the Trump administration.

Mark Brownstein, vice president for Climate & Energy for the Environmental Defense Fund, released a statement after the EPA announcement, calling it “a slap in the face for operators that followed the rules, and a reward for those that held back.

This is precisely the kind of cozy collaboration with the worst actors in the oil and gas industry that dogged Pruitt throughout his controversial confirmation process,” Brownstein said.

The IRC was introduced as part of former President Barack Obama’s Climate Action Plan to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40-45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025.

Climate scientists at the EPA say the largest source of methane emissions in the US comes from natural gas and petroleum systems. 

While scientists at the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) say methane is the second largest contributor to global warming after carbon dioxide, the emissions are 28 times more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide in the atmosphere over a 100-year period. 

"It's absurd that one of Scott Pruitt's first acts is to refuse information on a dangerous pollutant," Melinda Pierce, legislative director for the Sierra Club told The Weather Channel

"Just because he doesn't want to hear the truth on the dangers of methane from oil and gas operations, doesn't make it any less dangerous to the millions of Americans that are forced to breathe this pollutant in on a daily basis," she said.